Judge Endorses New Ice Arena Air Quality Rules, But Orders Changes

Updated: 02/08/2013 11:08 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Albert

An administrative law judge has endorsed most of the state's proposed changes to indoor air quality at Minnesota's ice and sports arenas, but an order to essentially tighten the standards even further will keep the overhaul, the most sweeping in four decades, from being implemented for now.

In a 55-page decision issued Friday afternoon, Judge Barbara Neilson found the Minnesota Department of Health successfully "demonstrated the need for and reasonableness" of most of the proposed rules, which would significantly reduce acceptable levels of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide in arenas, require more frequent air testing and arena licensing, and mandate a staff member trained in air readings and corrective action be on duty at all times.

However, Neilson also found several "defects" that will require modification, changes that would essentially go further than the department had initially proposed for the state's 274 indoor ice arenas.

Reached late on Friday afternoon, the health department deferred comment on the ruling until next week after it had time to digest the decision.

In a previous interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in January, Dan Tranter, supervisor of the Health Department's Indoor Air Unit, had stated the proposed rules would be "the most stringent and the most strict in the country."

But in several ways, Judge Neilson found the department did not go far enough. For example, Neilson wrote the department "should" lower slightly the level of carbon monoxide at which people in an arena would be evacuated as well as require arenas to give the department advance notice before using types of fuel-burning equipment other than ice maintenance equipment.

In addition, the judge found the rules as proposed by the department lacked defined criteria for dealing with violators, giving the commissioner "unfettered discretion," which would be "inconsistent with due process."

The judge also recommended the department re-insert language notifying violators of an opportunity to challenge a suspension or revocation of an arena's certificate.

The department now must decide whether to adopt the judge's changes and resubmit the entire proposal for approval, or ask the chief administrative law judge, who signed off on Neilson's decision, to reconsider the disapproval.

Click here to read the full decision.

Click here to read our previous coverage.